THE term AfPak, popular some months ago in the United States' political and military circles, is not heard much now. Perhaps the reason is that the person credited with coining the term, President Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, seems out of favour after some undiplomatic encounters with President Karsai and is hardly heard of.
But AfPak remains a convenient way of indicating how closely the fortunes of the two countries are linked. There is little doubt that a major reason for America's willingness to see the mission in Afghanistan to a satisfactory conclusion is its anxiety that failure there could lead to serious unrest in Pakistan with the consequent risk that its nuclear arsenal could fall into militant hands. These concerns are the subject of an article in the current issue of the New Yorker magazine by Seymour Hersh, the highly-respected investigative journalist. He claims that the Obama administration is negotiating with Pakistan to permit US nuclear security specialists to provide help to protect Pakistan's stockpile of between 80 and 100 warheads and that US Intelligence has had access to the locations and command-and-control systems protecting them. The Pakistan government has angrily denied the report but Hersh argues that the threat to these weapons would not necessarily come from external forces but could stem from those in the military with militant Islamic sympathies.